Allergies Versus Intolerance

What is the Difference...

Allergies and Intolerance

This is a very important topic that needs much attention. We probably all had some kind of reaction at one point of time to a food or a product without even realizing it. Many times sensitivities goes unnoticed because the symptoms can vary so much from one individual to the other. I personally have both.

An allergy can happen when an allergen enters the body, or is topically applied. The bodies immune system responds to this by producing antibodies. Thinking it needs to defend itself. Those antibodies attach themselves to cells called mast cells. When these cells come in contact with an allergen then they produce certain substances. One of the main substances is called histamine. Histamine can cause swelling, inflammation and irritation.

That’s when the doctor will recommend antihistamines. The most common ones would be Benadryl and Claritin. Antihistamines will block the effect of histamine that was released by your immune system to decrease the symptoms. This is a short term treatment to help relieve symptoms like watery eyes and runny nose.

The best treatment for allergies is to avoid being exposed to the allergen. So for example, if you are allergic to pollen and grass, then it’s best to stay indoors especially in the springtime. Another option is to do immunotherapy, where you can get shots to sensitise your body to the certain allergen. It is basically training your immune system not to overreact when it is exposed to the allergen, but this can take years.

A serious allergic reaction can develop into an anaphylactic life threatening reaction. That’s when the symptoms develop to a swelling in the mouth and throat making it difficult to breath. This is very serious and is life threatening. It is always advised that patients with serious allergies to carry an EPIpen in case of an emergency. Most common allergies in the world are food allergies, like allergies to nuts, eggs or dairies. An EPIpen works by relaxing the lung muscles and decreasing the inflammation and the swelling in the throat and lips making it easier to breath.

Food intolerance or sensitivity can be mislabeled as allergies sometimes. Intolerance is less serious than an allergy and is usually limited to digestive issues. One of the most common intolerances is Lactose intolerance. It happens when people cannot digest lactose products because they are lacking the enzyme lactase to digest it causing gas, bloating and other issues. Sensitivities can happen when you're lacking the enzyme to digest certain foods, your sensitive to preservatives, chemicals or sugars in food. I have all the mentioned sensitivities. Symptoms can be nausea, bloating, gas, diarrhea or constipation.

If you look at the picture above you will see the skin test I have done at the allergy clinic. It usually takes 2 visits to get the allergy test done. You’ll get tested for things like pollen, grass and weeds. The second visit I got tested for food allergies. First they mark your arms or back with numbers and then they prick the skin with the allergen. Then they asses the diameter of the swelled areas. If it goes above a certain number then you are allergic to that substance. From my picture you can tell many of the areas where red and swelled up because I am allergic to it. It was burning and itching me like crazy. I had to use ice packs and took antihistamines and steroids. I was lucky that I did not have any severe allergies.

I also have food intolerances. It is hard for me to digest carbs. I get so bloated when I eat things like bread, chips and rice. I am also Lactose intolerant which makes it hard for me to eat the cheeses that I love, but there are many options now such as lactose free dairy products. Sugar makes me get hives and rashes especially around my chin. Many topical products irritate my skin and makes me itchy or it stings. It’s caused by some of the chemicals in it and the preservatives. Sometimes it makes me breakout and my skin gets inflamed. Pay attention to what you eat/apply and watch if it causes you any discomfort so you can avoid it or eat less of it.

Many products in the market can claim allergy free if they are free of the top most common allergens. Food or topical products you buy can still cause allergy or sensitivities even if it says it is allergy free. I do choose to make my products from ingredient free of sulfate, phthalates, parabens, gluten and fragrances. Which are on the list of the most common causing ingredients for allergies and sensitivities. However, I cannot say that my product or any product is allergy free because you can be allergic to any of the ingredients. I hope this will help you in understanding more about allergies and aid you in choosing the right things for you. Ask me any questions you like or give me suggestions for my next blog topic.

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